July 9

There is always something to write about - And now there is too much, and I fall silent.

Even funerals are expressions of the times. On Sunday we buried Hana Gut, and I was overwhelmed by how we do it here, how humble a person is in her death. I saw it last week with Zevi Tirosh- the way the body is received into the grave by the gravedigger, who embraces it and lies it down on the earth very gently before he begins to place concrete blocks over it, crushing it down. Then we all join in to pour dirt into the grave, adding stone after stone. Then we tell the body we have tried to bury it properly and it shouldn't be angry with us. Then we add another stone and leave the cemetery by a different path than we came in so we will confuse the angel of Death who may have been waiting for us on the way like red Riding Hood's wolf.

Hana Gut, that ancient, delicate old Yekke, would have blanched at the thought of following such primitive customs, as we, her relatives blanch. And yet we all follow them, with no complaints, and no suggestions of alternatives.

The only difference between Hana and Zevi's funerals from the funerals I've been to in recent years is that there is an armed guard at the entrance, as if there is a new custom added to confuse the angel of Death.

I have no complaints about the customs - the regularity and the knowledge of how to behave are comforting - But to me it is important always that we be aware that these are arbtrary customs that we impose on ourselves.

This is a political statement.

After the funeral, at dinner at the British Ambassador's, Ram Caspi explained his peace negotation plan. As a lawyer, he says, he's got negotiating skills, and he knows what the other wants. All we have to do is agree to work it out. "What do you need to be put in the position to negotiate a peace settlement?" I ask him. The government has to wake up.

I have a strong sense that he has that awareness of custom and the ability to work within these customs, and use them for innovation. But does he understand THEIR customs?

Now the big question is why I continue this diary when - as we all know - there have been no suicide bombings in the past weeks. Because we're still terrified - maybe even more than before, because as time goes on, we see less and less of a solution.

There’s an actor – I think his name is Julian Mor – who’s been going around saying that we need to understand the motivation of suicide bombers – that their source is great desperation. We don’t like to hear anything in defense of bombers and the other night, Mor’s Haifa performance of “The Taming of the Shrew” was interrupted by someone in the audience who began shouting at him about his political opinions. Mor noted that we need to hear it, but we want only to hear ourselves, and don’t even realize how locked into our own truths we are. I guess this is what I was thinking about when we were leaving the cemetery – that we need to be able to know when we are following customs, and when we are trapped by habit.

Really good chefs know how to cook food so that each ingredient retains its individuality and yet together makes a unique flavor. Tonight I had a yam with leek and basil that was like a symphony. It was part of an amazing meal cooked by chef Yossi El Ad, and the conversation we had in the kitchen was as amazing as the meal. Yossi is part of an organization called “Chefs for Peace,” a group composed of Jewish and Arab professionals. The Arab chefs come from both sides of the Green Line and the group gets together every two weeks. I’ll bet the organization is like the food Yossi cooked tonight – like the filet mignon with lentils: original, unique, and far more than the sum of its parts – and I wish I could find a way to help this group grow.

Help me out here - so many of you told me to keep up this journal - so now I'm asking you to help me figure out how to support groups that promote peace. I know there are lots of problems with supporting groups (and individuals) that use the idea of peace as a front for promoting anti-other propaganda. But tell me about the individuals and groups that are genuinely and actively for co-existence, and are doing something about it. Some hope would be a good thing for all sides.

June 11

For those who bear the instruments of war - and we are among them,

Some in practice,

Some by a hug of approval -

Are sucked, mumbling "necessity" and "vengeance",

Into the domain of war crimes.

Nathan Alterman, 1948

True, but too simple. Yesh Gvul quotes Alterman as if to say that we must not bear instruments of war.

And the next question is - what if some one is trying to kill us? We always assume that people have pure motives, and so when someone hijacks a plane, we assume he just wants to take us somewhere else, so we let him...maybe even try to understand his motives as he's aiming for the towers.

How can one be a moral person in this dilemma?

Amnesty International declared terrorist bombing a crime against humanity. Hearing of the decision I began to shudder, the way Ronen told me he shuddered when he witnessed the train station in Nahariya explode. When I think of it - the number of people who described to me the experience of witnessing an attack - and the long range effects of it - the shaking, the swelling, the blurred vision, and diminished hearing... Not very significant when you think of the 'mildly wounded' thousands who lost limbs - or like Michal's sister - get a little shrapnel into their lungs. Then there are the seriously wounded - the vegetables surrounded by their traumatized families in the various institutions around the country - and then the hundreds dead.... let's figure it out 655 dead, 3000 maimed physically, another 10000 maimed emotionally, a few thousand orphaned, widowed...

a high price to pay for losing in the negotiations in the fall of 2000, that is not being allowed to give the territories to the Palestinians.

i am about to meet some friends at an open shopping center. I want to see them very much or i wouldn't go.

But I'd rather stay home and hide under the covers.

July 12

I'm a little overwhelmed by work - People ask me why I took on so many projects at once - I answer that in March when I said yes I thought I'd explode before the summer due dates.

Maybe there is some truth in it - commitments is a promise of survival.

Liz is here for a visit - to see her kids and to rent out her house in Yaffo. She's promised to go to as many demonstrations as possible while she's here - and for a moment I thought about how many demonstrations I've missed going to recently because i don't have the strength. Maybe if I lived abroad it would be easier to visit and complain loudly about some of the shocking policies here. Certainly there are things that need strong opposition.

Not only the big things that hit the news all the time. There are little things. I worry, for example, about the fact that the Ministry of Education is closing down the educational television station instead of strengthening it and making it into a real medium for learning about citizenship - rights and responsibilities in a democracy, intercultural understanding, etc.

I worry about the weakening of the university and the de-emphasis on creative thinking, innovative problem solving, etc that is inherent in the research process.

I worry about the Bedouin houses that were torn down the other day because they were built without licenses.

I worry about how I enjoy the benefits of living in a momentarily terror-free environment without even thinking about the fact that dozens of terrorist attacks have been prevented this week before they made it to us because we're in the towns that foster terrorism beating the shit out of them.

Last night, at the family reunion with our newly discovered relatives someone said something about the fact that there were things going on here connected to citizens' right that she is ashamed of. Because some of us have lived in societies in which we were the minority, we are very sensitive to discrimination. The branch born in Israel, however, didn't quite understand our sentiments. People want to live with people who are like them, they said. We don't want to live with people who are not like us.

When we got home, and I couldn't sleep, as usual, I remembered that my aunt had also said that to me many years ago when I was a tourist here. She warned me about people with different backgrounds, going out with men who were not of Russian/Polish origin.

june 13

I think I mentioned Pnina Isseroff's comments about music before - but I just got permission from her to quote so here is the first paragraph of her description of a military ceremony:

As the Israeli mother of two sons, now 19 and 22, I have attended a great many ceremonies at school, camp, and now, the army. Yesterday my husband and I drove down to the desert and sat in a grandstand as my son and 128 other young men and women stood on the parade ground in 41C degree (105F!) heat to receive their non-commissioned officer stripes in the artillery corps. And once again, as always happens at these events, we were struck by one of the wonderful anomalies of our “military” existence. The music. Almost all the songs played while the soldiers march, are songs about…..peace. About the end of war. About how glorious it will be when we can take off our uniforms and live in peace. About flowers in the barrels of our guns. About using destroyers to transport oranges. About the dove with the olive branch. About peace.

On an antithetical musical note:

Yesh Gvul organized a protest event yesterday afternoon at the port. Unfortunately they forgot to tell the performers that they were collecting money to give to the families of conscientous objectors. Some of them cancelled when they found out because they didn't like not being told. Apparently the others who performed had some pretty bad experiences.

The problem is that peace is not a simple movement any more and the many many political, economic, sociological, etc.elements are not always interchangeable. You can be for one thing and not the other, or both sides at once, or whatever. The quest for peace is not a simple movement like the quest for war.

I think it is obvious that I've been drinking - a great birthday party at Shesek with too many political discussions...